PlaceCoin, a Narrative (Part 2)

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PlaceCoin imagines a near-future where augmented reality glasses are commonplace, and miraculously aren’t controlled by a single big tech company

Instead our glasses show us information, art, and history placed there by other users, who earn points and even money for placing great content that gets upvoted, and explores what that world might look like, good and bad.

This story is continued from PlaceCoin - Part One

“So can I ask you a question?” I said. I was high up above Broadway in front of the facade of a building in the VR facsimile of our install restoring the gargoyle based on a photo I’d found. It wasn’t 100% accurate, but it was at least period.

“Sure” she said from the street below, where she was working on an NPC’s costume. Her voice was incongruent with her position, sounding like she was right beside me because, of course, she was  actually standing in my apartment no more than 3 feet from me. 

“How in the world did you pull off Hamilton vs Hamilton?”

I heard her laugh, and take a deep breath. Over the past weeks she’d gotten the hint that I knew her work, but I’d kept any general fanboy fervor hidden, not wanting to be “that guy”. But it had been weeks and I had to know. 

“So you’ve seen it?”

“Yeah - I mean, I’m a musical theater nerd and a Placer, so it was basically inevitable. But that’s a huge install, and I’ve run the numbers. It was way more Coin than you should have been able to afford.”

She smiled. “Yes… Yes it was.”

“So how’d you do it?”

“Well, I got lucky I guess. I was a huge fan of Hamilton when it was big a few years back… what was that, 9 years ago? Anyway, I’d visited Hamilton’s grave down at Trinity Church and his house uptown with my dad when I was a kid - I was totally obsessed - and once I started to get some Coin together, I wanted to do something amazing there. On a lark I sent a note to Lin Manuel. He wrote me back that day.”

“Really?”

“Yup. Turns out he’s a huge nerd. He bought up a bunch of PlaceCoin in the ICO, and was just kind of sitting on it.” Sam said. 

“Wow. Who knew he’d be into PlaceCoin - I figured you did a partnership with him and some investors or something, but I didn’t think he’d have any clue what it was.”

“It took us forever to put together the install and Lin kept asking all these technical questions. I think he’s working on an AR musical now that you can perform anywhere you can stake enough territory to make a stage. The actors and NPCs interact with the sets, backdrops and even some effects.”

“Cool.” I could picture it. “Like Shakespeare in the park, but anywhere.”

“Exactly - we were also talking about a doing a version of Hamilton where NPCs act out everything except the role you want to play, so you can pretend to be right in the heart of the action. But we were having trouble getting the choreography to work without real set pieces and other human actors, so we shelved it. That’s when I started on this.”

“Oh man, that sounds amazing. And hilarious. Could you imagine walking up into a field without your glasses on, and guy is  just dancing around and belting out showtunes? I mean it would be...”

“Will.” Sam interrupted. “Will!”  

I aimed my controller at the street next to her and closed my eyes as I jumped, pointing my cursor at her feet and instantly appearing next to her. There were perks to working on the virtual version of the installation in VR, if you could get over the potential nausea. 

“Look at this” she said, stretching her hands apart in front of her and placing a terminal in front of us in mid-air. 

I watched as the screen enlarged until I could read what she was bringing up, and even then I had trouble making sense of it. She had the blockchain ledger for PlaceCoin up tailing recent transactions. Normally that would be nearly impossible to follow in real time, but I could see she had it filtered to a one meter radius around our installation. And it was still going by impossibly fast. 

“What the...?” I said, watching the purchases happen in flurries.

“We’re under attack” she said, watching as someone, or more likely lots of someone’s, bought every possible gap, edge, and weak-spot in our massive land grab. Sam had bots fighting back, buying the spots back up as quick as she could, but she was going broke quickly trying to fight them off. 

“Oh shit.” I said, watching as the onslaught continued. I could see where this was going. Her install was going to be ruined, covered in some stupid pharma ads. Or worse. Someone had decided that they wanted in on her publicity stunt and was trying to horn in. “Alright. I’m in. What radius are you buying?”

“I’ve got a polygon covering 1 meter back from the facade of every storefront from Union Square up Broadway to Madison Square.”

“Okay,” I said, drawing the same slanted rectangle on a map along broadway on a virtual terminal I’d brought up in front of my own avatar. I set up purchase rules, max bid per spot, and a filter so I wouldn’t bet against Sam’s account ID as quick as my fingers could type. But I could see we were already losing the battle as I glanced at the ownership graph. I had my spots in blue, Sam’s in green, and anyone else in red, and the red was seeping in like a virus.

There would be a limit to what we could do together and I looked at my account balance for a second. If we lost this, we’d hold a patchwork of worthless Places along the middle of Broadway, with no coherent story, and upvotes would be few and far between. No upvotes meant no return on the Coin we’d invested. We’d both be right back at the beginning of our careers, with a handful of Coin if we were lucky and no momentum. I looked at Sam and hit buy before I had too long think about what I was doing.

“Whoa” Sam said, as the map hovering between us flooded blue momentarily. “Jesus, Will, that’s all your Coin! You don’t have to do that.”

“We’ve worked too hard on this, I’m not letting them ruin it. Besides, they haven’t seen anything yet. That’s just what I’ve got liquid. Let’s see how deep their pockets really are.”

I triggered some sales on choice spots I’d been squatting on in touristy areas. I’d developed a knack for putting helpful info right where people needed it and the return on the Coin had been good, they were lucrative spots.. A few sales later, and I was back in the black. My bots surged again, and chased out another wave of red sneaking in around the corners. 

Each back-and-forth in the war was shrinking the radius of the multitude of Places we held and the map was looking more and more fractured, but the doubling of costs on the bigger plots seemed to have priced out the invading swarm after a few trades. We held most of Madison Square and focused the fight on Union Square now.

“They keep outbidding me on Washington’s Statue. I can’t afford it without taking down something major - I’m going to  have to shut down Hamilton down to keep this up” she said. 

Losing Hamilton would be a blow, as it was her main driver of upvotes and working capital, not to mention it and was a huge tourist attraction now. The community would be furious if it blipped out of existence and became a Starbucks ad. 

“Okay, I can still take it” I said, selling off a few more tracts of land I’d speculated on north of Westchester, hoping that self-driving cars would extend suburban sprawl more than they had so far. I had a more immediate need for the Coin now.

I winced as I manually keyed the okay to take Washington’s statue, and started to sweat as I did the math in a command prompt I pulled up. 2048 PLC. At today’s exchange rate, that would be 512 ETH, or about a $128,000 dollars. I knew my total holdings were a bit shy of a million, and I couldn’t make much more liquid without losing everything and reneging on a bunch of contracts I had with groups like MoMath to keep installs up for them. 

My little hero move wasn’t going work, and I could feel my heart sinking.